‘Justice Aniagolu, A Judge of Judges’ By DAMIAN DURUIHEOMA, ROBERT EGBE on October 26, 2021
Justice Anthony Aniagolu chaired the Constituent Assembly that drafted the 1989 Constitution – arguably the country’s best. Last Thursday, the Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu, hosted the fourth Justice Aniagolu memorial lecture to mark the jurist’s 10-year remembrance, featuring tributes and review of the ex-Supreme Court Justice’s book on the making of the stillborn Constitution.
The verdict from participants at the fourth Justice Aniagolu memorial lecture which was held last Thursday at the Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu was clear: this was no ordinary Justice.
The tributes from Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Mr Femi Falana and former Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Prof Chidi Odinkalu read like the blueprint for how to be not just a great judge, but a quintissential Justice of the Supreme Court.
Both men were just two of the guest speakers at the event. Others included Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Rev Fr Matthew Kukah and the Vice-Chancellor of the Godfrey Okoye University, Rev. Prof. Christian Anieke, among others.
Kukah was the Guest of Honour, while Odinkalu reviewed Justice Aniagolu’s book, ‘Making of the 1989 Constitution’.
The lecture’s theme was: The 1989 Constitution: A critical analysis and evolution of its applicability to contemporary discourse on constitutional amendment.
Rights activist Falana, in his keynote speech, summed up the sentiment in the Peter Mbah Law Auditorium when he described Justice Anthony Aniagolu as “a judge of judges.”
Falana said: “He (Justice Aniagolu) was one of the lawyers in private practice that were invited and persuaded to cross over to the Bench.
“That was the practice in those days, you didn’t have to beg anybody; the system would invite you if you were found worthy. In his case, it took time before he could make up his mind.
“The Hon Justice Anthony Aniagolu was a judge of judges. He was a judge whose integrity and confidence led him to do justice to all manners of people; whoever you were, you didn’t have to fear that this judge would give judgment to the bourgeoisie, he would say it as it was and pronounce on the law.
“Even though Justice Aniagolu’s influence is noticeable in all areas of our law, I can tell you that my lord is highly acknowledged for having contributed so immensely to the development of our human rights jurisprudence.”
He singled out the jurist for his uprightness.
“My lord was never ever associated with corruption or misconduct as a judge, and I’m talking of a career that spanned four decades. He stood as a man of unimpeachable integrity,” Falana added.
Speaking on the theme ‘The 1989 Constitution: Critical analysis and evaluation of its applicability to contemporary discourse on constitutional amendment,’ Falana noted that the defunct General Ibrahim Babangida regime sabotaged a very expensive political programme.
According to him, because IBB was planning to metamorphose from a military dictator to a civilian president.
He identified the 1989 Constitution, which Nigeria never had, as the best in the country’s history.
The Silk regretted that the constitution, midwifed by the Babangida regime and written by a team of fine brains led by the late Justice Aniagolu, was scuttled by the annulment of the June 12, 1993 election won by the late MKO Abiola.
He advised the National Assembly, especially the Senate Committee on Constitution Amendment, to take a critical look at the document as they engage in the amendment of the existing constitution or writing of a new one.
Born in Eke, Udi Local Government Area of Enugu State on October 22, 1922, Justice Aniagolu died in Enugu on June 28, 2011, just four months to his 89th birthday.
He was the chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association, Enugu branch, 1962-1965 and member, Disciplinary Committee, Bar Council of Nigeria, 1962-1965.
Aniagolu became a judge in the High Court of Eastern Nigeria in 1965 and was appointed Acting Chief Judge, East Central State of Nigeria in 1973; Chief Judge, Anambra State, 1976 and Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in 1978, where he was till October 1987.
Credit: THE NATION NEWSPAPER